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  • Writer's pictureMatt Nute

Where's My Thing?

A peculiarity to adventurers, especially in fantasy settings, is that they can carry literally everything they own with them. Not in the sense of having an infinite inventory of unimaginable space and negligible weight, but that they literally own no more than they can carry at a Medium encumbrance, possibly more if they have a horse or hireling to cart about some of their less-used gear.

This is where we get the concept of the Murder Hobo. Adventurers with no fixed address, nowhere to be tracked down (usually), traveling from dungeon to haunted keep to battlefield stopping only to exchange loot for gold and gold for more gear. 

So what happens when your character wants stuff? Some of the greatest moments in gaming campaigns come with memorabilia - the story of how the fighter lost an ear when he held the vampire in the wizard's blade barrier until the greater turning could take effect, or when the party slew the behemoth threatening the small town, and now they get free drinks at the bar where the monster’s skull hangs above the door. 

And yet, as human beings (or, in the case of most fantasy settings, other humanoid races who usually have the same sentimental and emotional foibles as human beings) we like to have tangible items to associate with our pasts and our memories. Adventuring parties would likely accumulate a collection of memorabilia and curiosities after a few levels, and they’re going to want to put them somewhere.

In many campaigns, the issue is solved by providing the party with a patron - perhaps they work for a local lord who offers them lodging at his estate, or they’re soldiers who have a common barracks, or one of them is the son of a landowner and they’re based out of mom’s guest house. 

Of course, there’s always the ubiquitous group of adventurers that seem to live out of their local tavern. This has always been a curiosity to me: the concept of the public house/inn is an integral part of most fantasy settings, but to look at it from a business point of view - it becomes rather silly.

Uthgert owns the Moon and Serpent, a somewhat successful tavern where he cooks whatever meat he can get a deal on from the local butcher, coupled with the vegetables his wife grows behind their small cottage. He trades for ale with the local dwarf clan and barters for various foreign wines when traders come through on their routes. During the dry season, travel is frequent enough to keep him in coin - enough to cover the duke’s taxes, keep the constable friendly enough to keep ruffians away from the premises, and maintain the tavern in good condition. Rainy seasons mean less travelers, and a reliance on local business. 

And then there are the four rooms to let on the second floor of the tavern. Maybe ten feet square, each of them has a small bed with a straw mattress and one of Uthgert’s wife’s homemade quilts that renters are welcome to take with them for an extra gold piece when they settle their account. A communal privy on the ground floor is available, and regular renters (those who stay more than once, or for more than a three-night stay) are welcome to share breakfast with the innkeeper and his wife. All in all, it’s a good life.

Then a group of travelers comes to the Moon and Serpent. These aren’t traders or mendicants or soldiers. No, these are adventurers, and Uthgert knows that the future of his inn is now balanced on the point of a knife. Adventurers are a source of incredible prosperity for an innkeeper, but it’s a wellspring that can dry up at any moment. Uthgert is no fool, though, and any guest who wears armor and a weapon into his establishment while asking for a room gets to sign their name or make their mark into the “guest book”, which contains a special contract (approved by the constable, of course) stating that in the case of a rented room being vacant for more than two nights, any property left in the room belongs to the innkeeper (with, of course, a kickback to the constable). 

Adventurers tend to bring trouble with them - strange spectral beings pursuing the sacred relics "retrieved" from their tombs, or assassins wanting to avenge their slain brethren. While a band of merchants might get a night’s rest for three silver coins apiece if they deal fairly with Uthgert, an adventurer won’t get a bed for less than a gold piece on the best day. The small hamlet doesn’t exactly carry Adventurer’s Mutual Insurance, you know. 

Adventuring parties who tend to treat temporary lodgings as their own personal fiefdoms will often find themselves the subject of much disdain - odds are that the innkeeper’s more loved by the locals than these strangers from out of town throwing around gold and attitude. And eventually, they’ll need to move on. You can only store so much swag in your five-gold-per-week room at the Moon and Serpent.

Of course, the idea of parties pooling their resource to build a castle or acquire their own keep, perhaps with patents of nobility making them local lords with their own demesnes - that’s often a goal for many adventurers. But between the rented mattress above the bar and sitting their own throne there’s quite a gap to cross.

And so we come to the idea of adventurers buying property. Maybe a group apartment above an herb shop in the campaign’s main city becomes available, and the party decides to cash in the hoard they retrieved from the kobold temple and become homeowners. On the plus side of this transaction:

  • they now have a semi-permanent base of operations

  • they possibly have a secondary source of income renting out their property while they’re off on adventures

  • they have a reasonably secure place to put their stuff

And of course, it comes with negatives as well:

  • Houses don’t usually move along with the adventuring party, unless your landlady is Baba Yaga.

  • If the party’s enemies discover where they live, it could be used against them. Coming home from a dungeon delve to find one’s home burned to the foundation is a great way to give an adventuring party an enemy for life. Sure, killing a henchman will make them mad, but the Nine Hells have no fury like a party suddenly made homeless.

(Seriously, this would be the best idea ever - sell the party a house and don’t disclose its propensity for growing chicken legs and moving every night.)

Try it out in a campaign sometime - give your players the opportunity to become homeowners. Especially if they’ve been used to the life of murderhobos, throw them a curve with the notion of putting down roots.

And then maybe yank it all away from them when the githyanki teleport their three-room bungalow with attached stable into the Ethereal Plane. Mutual of Greyhawk ain’t gonna cover that without a hefty deductible.

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